More than likely you did not hear a peep about the biggest news story in yesterday’s queue. The fight over “net neutrality” was decided yesterday, and now if you have trouble getting to your favorite sites, or have to wade through more spam, or it just takes longer to get to certain sites this is why.
Advocates of a free and open Internet could see this coming, but today’s ruling from a Washington appeals court striking down the FCC’s rules protecting the open net was worse than the most dire forecasts. It was “even more emphatic and disastrous than anyone expected,” in the words of one veteran advocate for network neutrality.
The Court of Appeals for the D.C. circuit thoroughly eviscerated the Federal Communications Commission’s latest lame attempt to prevent Internet service providers from playing favorites among websites–awarding faster speeds to sites that pay a special fee, for example, or slowing or blocking sites and services that compete with favored affiliates.
This will allow cable/internet providers to pick winners and losers and essentially collect more fees from content providers in a form of legal payola. Until now the internet was a meritocracy, all equal under the ISP law. Maybe the ability to manipulate Google searches could be said to be a way of throwing a thumb on the scales, but essentially all sites are favored equally.
But under the schemes that the heavy weight providers have been pushing for years and now have the ability to roll out, that’s all changed.
Think of Comcast as Tony Soprano, if you will. He controls the streets of your town. Think of Netflix or You Tube as the waste management firms that want access to as many streets to collect the garbage efficiently from as many clients as they can get. They can afford to give Tony and his crew a “taste” and send their trucks racing around town at breakneck (or leg) pace. While you and your little mom and pop waste management company can’t go everywhere maybe, and may have some speed restrictions.
This is great for the telecom giants, obviously. But it’s also a boon for the internet giants like Amazon who can pay the extra fees, while the plucky little start up in some garage somewhere that imagines itself the next Amazon is killed in its start up crib because customers fall asleep waiting for its pages to load.
The telecom companies claim their chief interest is in providing better service to all customers, but that’s unadulterated flimflam. We know this because regulators already have had to make superhuman efforts to keep the big ISPs from degrading certain services for their own benefit–Comcast, for example, was caught in 2007 throttling traffic from BitTorrent, a video service that competed with its own on-demand video.
This is not good.